It is time for the Los Angeles Lakers to think seriously about rebuilding.
Notice that I did not say “reload.” This is not a squad that is able to slightly tweak the roster and get right back into contention. Players were brought in to go after one or two more titles.
As Kobe Bryant has said, it isn’t working.
Column: As Lakers struggle for solutions, Kobe Bryant tells Yahoo! Sports, "Obviously, this isn't working." tinyurl.com/a559ncb— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 22, 2013
Time to rebuild.
So much energy has been expended on analyzing coaches, offenses and playing styles. All of those elements are certainly factors. However, there are some glaring realities about this team.
This team is old. Slow. Lacking in chemistry. Unable to play consistent defense.
Since the beginning of the year, there has been hope that the Lakers would “figure it out.” Somehow the veterans were going to mesh, create a new defensive identity and regain the swagger that has historically been such a part of franchise success. Unfortunately, time is ticking away.
It is now late January, and meshing does not appear to be in the cards. Pau Gasol is on the bench. Dwight Howard still can’t shoot free throws. The Lakers are giving up 101.4 points per game, which is currently 26th in the Association.
Just a few days ago, I wrote about the odds of Los Angeles making the playoffs. At the time, Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds gave the Lakers a 34.3 percent chance of making the postseason. After the most recent losing streak, that has dropped to 19.3 percent.
How does this team rebuild? There are a myriad of ways, but any strategy has to start with a realization that lateral moves may not be possible.
In other words, let it go. Move on. Accept that teams go through cycles. This is normal...at least for most teams.
Should the Lakers trade Pau Gasol? Certainly a possibility. However, a search for equal value may be futile at this point. Los Angeles may need to get a young player that has potential or even (gasp) a draft pick.
As tweeted by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports,
Trade market for Pau Gasol complicated because Lakers have made clear that they don't want back long-term money in deal, league sources say.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 22, 2013
What should the Lakers do at this point?
The same goes for Dwight Howard, who may or may not represent the future of this franchise. Sure, you could build around a younger center like Howard, but Los Angeles may want to think about trading him for a package of future options.
As noted by Sports Illustrated, rumors about Howard going to the Brooklyn Nets have started...again.
Granted, this is not a simple decision. Can management really go to Kobe Bryant and tell him that this isn’t working and that it isn’t fixable for the rest of his current deal? Will Jim Buss or Mitch Kupchak tell Bryant that the Lakers are going to rebuild, and that they would love him to play more of a mentoring role before he fades into the sunset?
Something tells me that Kobe might have something to say about that on Twitter.
The Los Angeles Lakers have had a good run during the Bryant era. There have been a number of titles and plenty of individual accomplishments. Compared to the rest of the NBA, the Los Angeles fans have had it pretty good.
The fight in this team may be gone. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweeted this:
Stu Lantz with an excellent point on @twcsportsnet "all this losing is just breaking the team's spirit"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 22, 2013
This rendition of the purple and gold is arguably done. Cut your losses, be patient and rebuild. That 19.3 percent is only going to drop as the season progresses.
Let it go.